“We need to touch the soul of the people,” said Sam Pitroda, Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo yatra. “Then they will change and India will change and that is the message to the country of 1.4 billion people – What kind of India do they want?”
Pitroda, who has long been a Gandhi family friend ever since Rahul’s father Rajiv Gandhi invited him to start the telecom revolution in India, was speaking exclusively to indica.
On Sunday, October 30, Chicago-based Pitroda, a serial entrepreneur, innovator and telecom industry leader joined Indian Overseas Congress Unity Walk, inspired by Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra (Unify India March). The Congress leader had begun his march on September 7 from Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of India, and which will conclude in Kashmir next year after covering 3500 km (2175 miles) by foot.
Congress leaders in India have claimed that it is the longest march on foot by any Indian politician in the history of independent India.
Pitroda flagged off the Unity Walk in New York which was attended by close to 300 members of the Indian diaspora. They walked from Fifth Avenue to Union Square, where Mahatma Gandhi’s statue was garlanded.
Pitroda said current politics is polarizing our society. “It’s not good for the economy, it’s not good for the future and it is not good for the country’s security. We must focus on the values of democracy, human rights, freedom, unity, equality, and inclusion rather than categorizing people based on liberal and conservative ideologies,” Pitroda told indica.
“We need to focus on human values, that is what the Unity Walk was all about. “People should respect others’ identity, race and religion. Both the Bharat Jodo Yatra and Unity Walk are based on the principles of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr and other apostles of peace. We have to revive their ideas to bring people together.”
Pitroda emphasized on the divisive nature of social media in India. “Social media is creating echo chambers. But these yatras bring real people on the ground. They have real voices, real identities. They are not fake; they are in front of you. People get respect when they walk 3500 km.”
He said today’s core issues around the world relate to inequality in opportunities, education, and access to health. “The gap between rich and poor is increasing. It is a global problem,” Pitroda stated. “We need to pay attention to people at the bottom of the pyramid. Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr, and Mahatma Gandhi all spoke about it, but forums such as G7 and G20 talk about trade, geopolitics, finance, and the military. They do not solve world problems.”
He said that in India, it’s the who have to decide what kind of nation they want. “If they want a Hindu Rashtra where everybody should be discriminated against and bombarded with slogans against them, then that’s the India they will get. But we want an India where there is peace with diversity with differences, and an India that is more democratic.”
He underlined how the Bharat Jodo Yatra has seen hundreds of thousands of people joining Rahul Gandhi on foot. “It is historic,” he said. “The young, the old, the urban and the tribal, all kinds of people are holding hands and walking with him (Rahul Gandhi).”
He said the Yatra will transform Rahul Gandhi as well. “If I were in his position, I’d be overwhelmed with the love and affection I got from the public.”
He said that after the Unity Walk in new York, there will be similar walks in Ireland, Australia, UK, New Zealand, and 30-plus other countries in the coming weeks and months. “Many other cities in the US will join too.”